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KRT: Kemeticism is a Journey

how has your practice changed since you started out? How did you find your place within the Kemetic sphere? Are there things you do now that you didn’t then? Things you weren’t expecting? What have you learned through trial and error that newbs may find helpful or useful?

In a lot of ways, this KRT topic is a culmination of a lot of past KRT posts and then some. I’ve talked a little bit about how I got into Kemeticism, and I’ve also mentioned that my practice is not what I expected it to be. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect when they first enter into the Kemetic arena, and it’s very hard to really know which way is up once you’ve started to drink the Kool-Aid and eat the candy that the gods hand out. In many ways, religion is very confusing and stressful- especially if you’re going it alone or trying to piece together a practice from historical texts and dry Egyptological papers.

When I first started out in Kemeticism, I’d say that I was a lot… fluffier than I am now. I don’t necessarily mean fluffy in the sense of willfully ignorant, but I was a lot less discerning in my commentary on my practice, and my posts were all over the board and disjointed. I sometimes go back and look through my old LJ, and I hardly recognize the posts- and odds are you wouldn’t recognize them either. You’d probably look at them and think that I was completely making things up or that I was way too exuberant about everything and anything. Like many newcomers, I saw the gods in everything around me, I waxed on and on about what to offer them and what I spoke with them about and what I thought they might look like or be thinking and I often found myself thinking that nearly anything and everything could be from them. I also had a bad habit of posting 948346 times per day and I had virtually no filter on anything that I posted. I also had no real basis for some of my early discussion about groups within the Kemetic community, and I was a lot less open in a lot of ways when I first started out.

However, during my bout of therapy a few years back, it was suggested that I take my writing more seriously, and with that, my practice began to shift. When I first came into Kemeticism, I practiced largely for myself. But as I progressed in my path, my role and views on everything shifted, and my blog became less about me and more about everyone else. As I mellowed with experience I began to push against more difficult topics and my practice became more rooted in history and text books while simultaneously abandoning history all together. My practice became something of a dichotomy, and in a lot of ways, my practice formed into a sort of “test kitchen” for the rest of the community.

By taking on this role, I found myself trying to learn more about other people and other experiences. My older, more rigid views about what was ‘proper’ and what wasn’t fell away to the wayside because I could no longer push a platform of community-wide respect as well as ‘live and let live’ while drawing arbitrary lines in the sand with other practitioners. My practice became less about gods and more about people, and I’d probably say that in many ways, my practice no longer looks like anything like what it originally did. Honestly, the only consistency between then and now is probably Set. He is still here and I don’t imagine he’s going anywhere anytime soon.

My shrine setups have shifted from larger, more artsy shrines to something more simple (read:boring) and streamlined. My rituals became more polished and structured before disappearing almost entirely (the only consistent rites I do now are execrations). I focus less on various things for the gods such as statues, stones and doodads, and I focus more on actions and words for the gods instead. I became less physical in the trappings of my practice and more metaphorical and abstract in the way that I approach Kemeticism. I might even go so far as to suggest that my practice exists more in my walks to work and my blogging activities than in my actual shrine box.

There are days when I miss the practice I used to have. When I first came into Kemeticism, I was in love with the idea of doing rituals and honoring the gods daily. I wanted to be a priest back then, and I was trying to find any means possible to help scratch the itch that was gnawing at the inside of my head. Even now, I find myself pining over the practice that I thought I wanted- the one where I perform long, thought out rituals. The one where I still sit in front of my shrine every night and talk to the gods. The one where I was a little less jaded and a little more hopeful and excited about everything.

The truth is, I think there is a lot of opportunity when you’re first starting out. Your whole potential practice is in front of you, and you can technically “choose” to go wherever you want with your practice (I place choose in quotations because gods are meddlesome and sometimes they won’t let you go where you want). There is a lot of power in that, and I think it can be important to sit down and think about not only where you want your practice to go, but also where your strong suits lie when it comes to a practice focus. I’m not sure how many people actually work towards honing in on a particular area when it comes to their religious practice, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people have niche interests or projects that seem to place them into certain foci or categories in Kemeticism. And for anyone starting out, I would recommend thinking on that a little bit. Figure out where you’d like to go, and then test the waters to see if its actually for you.

I also think it’s important not to latch too tightly onto the idea of whatever you think will be super cool. I will always be at least somewhat in love with the idea of doing rituals every day. I will always be at least somewhat in love with the idea of being a priest that places their gods above all. I will always be at least a little in love with the idea of what I thought I wanted to be when I started off with Kemeticism. But age and experience has taught me that the idea of is not always what Becomes, and focusing too heavily on what you wish you had vs. what is actually in front of you can be detrimental in a lot of ways. While you think about where your practice could grow, it’s equally as important not to get too dead set on a particular “end goal” for your practice, because it might not be where you actually end up.

And in terms of an end goal, I think it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as an end goal with religion. I think for a while I thought there would be a time when I felt truly established in my practice. I’d know what was what and I’d feel comfortable with what I do and how I serve the gods and community. But the truth is, there is no such thing as comfortable or established. Every time I reach a plateau, the gods move the goal posts and I fall backwards again. Religion is a never ending cycle of growth and learning, and if you’re waiting for a time when you think you’re “good enough”, you’ll probably be disappointed, because I don’t know anyone who is 110% secure in what they do, believe or practice. Everyone, to some extent, is stuck in a never-ending Kermit-flail. Balance is not static, and so our practices will never be entirely static, either. If you begin to feel super relaxed and comfortable in your practice, I’d suggest taking a second look at what you’re doing to ensure that you’re not sliding into stagnation.

When it comes to stagnation, the other thing that I think is important for newcomers to realize is that we all hit points of stagnation. All of us. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Fallow periods are normal and can be very healthy depending on the circumstances. Just because you’re stagnating or falling off the wagon doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It’s a normal part of life in general, and that includes religion. Whenever this happens, it’s best to just get back up on the horse and keep trying.

Another thing I would recommend to newcomers is to not be afraid to try whatever you feel drawn to. I think it’s scary for a lot of us to move into uncharted territory, but sometimes wandering off into no-man’s land is the most rewarding adventure of all. Much like in my mention of finding a focus above, you never know where different paths will lead, and while you may not recognize the scenery- sometimes that’s where the best things lie in wait for you. To cite my own path, while I didn’t end up where I thought I was going to end up, or even where I thought I wanted to end up, there have been many things I would have missed if I hadn’t of gone the route that I have. It hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies, and there will always be things that I ponder, miss, or regret not being able to do, but at the same time I don’t think I would have ever imagined the stuff I have been able to do because I was open to moving off of the map. Keeping an open mind about where your practice can go can lead you to some really cool stuff. It’s just really important to make sure that you don’t inadvertently close any doors of opportunity along the way.

And in that same vein, I think the most important thing I can recommend to anyone who is new to the community is to think critically about your practice, and to think for yourself. I’ve always pushed for people to figure out the ‘why’ behind what they do, because I still think it’s the most important aspect of creating a religious practice. Don’t necessarily buy into what everyone says is necessarily “correct” or “the only way to do XYZ thing” because there is always more than one way to approach everything in life- religion included. Over the past 5 years of being in the Kemetic community, I can tell you that there have been huge shifts in what people deem “proper”, “suitable” and “good enough” which highlights that a lot of what is considered acceptable is really all about perspective. Keep a discerning eye on what you feel is best and don’t be afraid to use your own judgement when dealing with gods, religious practices and community interactions in general. Figure out what works best for yourself and let everyone else do the same for themselves.

To read other responses to this topic, check out the KRT Master List

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2015 in Uncategorized, Kemeticism, Kemetic Round Table

 

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Gods: More Like People Than You Think

Non-physical relationships can be a real pain to figure out. There aren’t any self-help books on them, and trying to get a communication style that works well can be challenging to say the least. Due to the nature of non-physical relationships, I think it’s common for people to flail and get scared when they need to figure out how to handle some of the bumps that normal relationships can take. You know the ones:

  • I think I made my god angry. How do I tell?
  • I know I made my god angry. How do I fix it?
  • How do I tell if this god is giving me the cold shoulder?
  • I don’t think my relationship with this god is working anymore. How do I end the relationship?
  • I haven’t been talking with the gods recently. Are they upset?

The truth of the matter is, regardless of whether your relationship is 110% in the flesh (such as with a physical human spouse, partner, parent, child, etc.) or whether it’s only half-physical (such as a god or spirit), a lot of the basics for relationships still apply. But for some reason, many of us have been trained to think that human relationship skills don’t apply to gods, and I can’t really figure out why.

I’m sure some of this has something to do with the Christian overtones many of us were raised in. God is bigger than you and cooler than you and doesn’t want to waste a lot of time with you (but he still loves you!). And then you have a lot of Pagan/polytheist bloggers who seem to imply that the gods are these HUGE BIG SCARY ENTITIES that you need to placate and offer your first born child to, lest they get mad at you. And in other situations, gods are apparently “above and beyond petty human concerns” and therefore don’t get mad or angry or make mistakes.

And when you’re new to Paganism or deity relationships, you probably have no clue what to do or where to turn, and you fear that one wrong move could be your last.

However, my experiences have shown me that the gods are a lot more like humans than we typically want to admit that they are. Yeah, they may have more power in some ways than we do. But at the end of the day, they seem to have a lot of the same basic attributes that we do, and I feel like we should be taking a closer look at that.

Like humans, no two are alike.

Something that is important to remember is that no two gods are going to necessarily handle a situation the same way. When people ask generalized questions such as “what should I give my god to appease them” or “will doing this upset the gods” the answer in response will almost always be “how should I know”. This is because no two gods are going to necessarily respond to something the same way.

For example, Set and Osiris don’t react to things the same way at all. Osiris gets more bent out of shape when I disappear for long periods of time, where as Set is more likely to say “you’re a spitting image of myself!”. When it comes to placating the gods, Osiris is more likely to want something heartfelt and small. Set is more likely to want a grandiose display.

This is no different than comparing two people who have different quirks, tastes, desires and needs. What you do may irritate one, but be preferred by the other. Giving XYZ food to one friend as a sign of thanks may send your other friend with the food allergy to the hospital.

In each situation you must take each god and devotee into consideration. Because what works for my relationship may not work for yours. No two gods are alike and no god will necessarily respond to two different devotees in the same way either. All of these situations carry a huge “your mileage may vary”.

Gods can be petty. Just like us.

I know that a lot of people seem to think that the gods can’t be petty. And maybe that’s true for some pantheons, but I’ll state that it’s certainly not true for all pantheons. For example…

Osiris wanted to humiliate his brother Set and convinced Ra to give him his Atef crown. With the new power bestowed upon him, he basically made Set kiss his butt and submit to his new power until his nose bled. This, of course, went to Osiris’ head so badly that he ended up getting a physical burn on his head from it.

Or you’ve got the Contendings where Horus basically does every underhanded trick in the book to try and win against Set because he is not above cheating.

And of course there is Thoth who will change his story to suit his needs so that he gets what he wants. And he is not above killing mortals who happen to stumble upon his books of knowledge.

Our gods are not above being petty. And if your pantheon is like my pantheon, your gods are probably not above being petty, either. This can influence interactions with them as well as what makes them grumpy or moody. You might think that your deity can’t get upset because you didn’t buy that piece of chocolate cake for them, but the truth is- they can get grumpy over that. I’m not saying that gods are always going to be petty, but it is certainly not outside of the realm of possibility. And therefore, it needs to be kept in consideration when developing a relationship with them.

Communication is key with relationships.

One of the biggest determining factors in whether a relationship with another human succeeds or not is communication. A relationship without communication is usually doomed to fail or be lackluster. Turns out that gods aren’t much different.

A lot of people like to ask how they should handle telling a god they screwed up. Or what they should do now that they’ve figured out that they no longer want to venerate this deity. Or they worry they messed up, and aren’t sure how to handle the situation. And in each of these situations, I always tell people to handle it the same way they would if it was another human.

If you screwed up, you’d usually tell the person it involves, and maybe smooth it over with a gift, if its appropriate. If you decide you no longer want to associate with someone (whether friends or otherwise), you usually would have to tell them at some point through some form of communication or another. And if you’re not sure if someone is mad at you, one of the fastest ways to find out is to ask.

And the same goes for gods.

Remember that gods aren’t actually mind readers (though sometimes I wonder about this) and they don’t follow us everywhere they go. Sometimes they aren’t going to know something unless you tell them about it. And sometimes the best way to get over a speed bump is to cut to the chase and talk with them. If you’re afraid of talking with your gods, I recommend you reevaluate why that is, and if your relationship with them is actually healthy. In all of my years of working with gods and spirits, I’ve found that open and honest communication goes a long way, and it’s made all of my relationships (both here and Over There) stronger.

Managing gods can be like managing friends or family. Or friends and family.

I’m pretty sure that most of the people reading this have many different kinds of relationships in their life. They have to manage time with kids and spouses, family and friends, coworkers and bosses, etc. There are many relationships that compose someone’s life, and each relationship has different needs and requirements to be kept healthy. And usually, certain relationships will require more time and/or dedication than others.

Many people struggle with the idea of having relationships with multiple deities. I think this stems from the notion that each god is super special, and so you must dedicate all of your time to each god, and each god must be dedicated to in equal measure. But the truth is, this isn’t necessarily the case. Much like juggling your friends and your family, one deity may require more time than another, and other gods may only want to hear from you once a season.

Whenever you’re trying to figure out how to handle multiple deities in your life, consider how you handle your human relationships. What do you do when aunt Sally’s birthday is on the same day that you and your friends wanted to go to a concert? What do you do when your child gets sick on date night? What about when your boss needs you to stay a little late when you had made dinner plans with your mother?

These types of situations all require different techniques to handle them, and the “right” answer will depend on your closeness with each person. Perhaps you don’t really like aunt Sally, and so you’ll opt for the concert instead. Or maybe aunt Sally is your favorite aunt, and you wouldn’t dream of missing her birthday. Neither answer is inherently correct or incorrect, but knowing your relationships will help you to figure out how to handle these kinds of situations when they pop up. Understanding what each deity requires of you and how lenient they are willing to be during times like this will help you figure out how to juggle work, religion, and several gods knocking on your doorstep. And using the communication listed above is key in figuring out how to make all of these relationships work all at once.

Whenever you find yourself in a pickle with the gods, I recommend that everyone learn to re-frame the situation as if you were both humans, and see if that makes it easier to figure out how to handle things. Because in many ways, the rules that apply to human relationships are equally relevant to non-physical relationships. Learning how one can be applied to the other can definitely make navigating the murky waters of deity-devotee relations much easier.

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Branding is Everything

Alternate Title: Your House Won’t Clean Itself
Alternate Alternate Title: Communities Don’t Have Roombas

There is a saying that we have in the design industry, and it goes something like this: branding is everything. If you google this saying, you’ll get well over 44 million hits as of this post, and for good reason. Branding really does make or break a company, person, or product.

Branding is one of those topics that everyone likes to talk about, and it’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, but many people don’t really know what it actually is. So for those of you who don’t know what branding is, here is a succinct definition:

Your brand is owned by your customers, the people you work with, and anyone else who has an impression of you. Your brand is other people’s perception of what it’s like to do business with you, work with you, or be with you.

Nothing is more important than your brand, because it’s what defines you, regardless of the work you do. […] The essence of building a strong brand is simply this: keeping your promises and creating great experiences for others.

[…]You literally have as many brands as you have customers and people who have an impression of you. If those impressions are bad, or if you don’t keep your promises, then your brand is weak. (source).

In other words, your brand is how you are perceived as a person, company, product, or organization. It’s what people think about when they think of you or your services, products, etc. It’s literally anything and everything you ever do, say, produce, or put out into the world.

Your branding is literally everything, and companies are made and unmade based off of the accuracy and efficacy of their brand.

“But what does this have to do with me?! I came here to read about Pagan and polytheistic topics, not about design!”, you are probably thinking (because I have branded my blog to be about those topics specifically). Thing is, branding effects you, too. You as an individual are also a brand.

Don’t believe me?

If you have a blog on the internet and you talk to people- whether it be on Tumblr, WP, FB or in forums, you have a brand. How you interact with people creates an expectation about who you are, what you stand for, and how you treat others. If you consistently answer people bruskly and harshly- you will be branded an asshole. If you smack people over the head with “True polytheists only do XYZ”, you will be branded, possibly, as part of the Piety Posse. If you post ahistorical stuff as canon, you may be branded as someone people can’t trust. And so the list goes on.

We are all individual brands because our interactions with others creates a perception about who we are and what people can expect from us. But there is more to it than just that. Our communities have brands as well. And I’m pretty sure we all know it on some level or another.

To test this out, I want you to take a minute and think about the various sects of the Pagan/polytheist community. Think about Wiccans and Heathens, Hellenics and Kemetics, Ceremonial Magicians and Canaanite polytheists. When you think of all of these groups, what comes to mind? Whatever impression you’re thinking of is the brand that each of these communities has made, intentionally or otherwise.

Each person is going to have a different impression of each community. This impression will be based off of a number of things: personal interactions with people of the community, things that they have heard through the rumor mill or hearsay, personal biases towards certain religions or religious sects, etc. But usually, given enough time a trend will emerge, a stereotype if you will. This stereotype, this brand can make or break your community and how successful it is.

And its something we should be paying more attention to.

I’ve seen people lament that their community has bad PR. “Everyone thinks we’re a bunch of assholes” they’ll post. “Why is our tag filled with jerks?” they’ll cry. And every time I see these posts, I want to ask in return: “Well what have you done about it?”

You see, branding will happen whether you try to control it or not. But all of the best designers know that branding shouldn’t happen by accident. Branding happens on purpose, by design. That’s why people hire us- to help push the brand of a company, person, or product in a particular direction. And if you want your community’s brand to change, you have to play a role in making it happen. And when I say you, I mean you reading this right now. When I say you, I mean all of you. It takes everyone working together to make consistent, lasting change.

The pagan community has a really bad habit of whispering to themselves about how someone’s bad behaviour is ruining it for everyone else, but then I never see these people actually do anything about it. You have to actively combat the bad stuff in your community and replace it with good stuff in order to make an active change in your branding. In the same way that your house won’t magically clean itself, your community won’t magically clean up it’s act on it’s own, either. You have to actively destroy and remove the bad apples that are in your community tree. Just like the NTRW fighting isfet each and every day- making a community’s brand better requires consistent work. It’s not something you can do every few months and expect success. It’s not something you can put onto one or two people and expect success. You have to all work at it all the time. Otherwise, those bad apples will crop up again, and your PR goes down the drain.

If people think that your community is filled with sexist jerks, the only way to change that is to find a way to remove the sexist jerks from your community. Whether this be through distancing yourself from them or flat out removing them from the community (this isn’t always possible). If the loudest names in your community are assholes, then it shouldn’t surprise you that people will begin to think that you’re all assholes. And the only way, again, to improve the PR for your community is to shout louder than the biggest names or to denounce the behaviour that they are exhibiting.

In other words, if you want your community to improve, you must actively work to improve it. Trust me when I say that passively ignoring horrible people in your community doesn’t work. The Kemetic community proved this last year when a bunch of racism began to crop up on various forums. On the surface, it may not look like it made much of a difference, but I assure you that people paid attention. And because of the passivity exhibited by many of the forum administrators, people have expressed discontent and a lack of trust in these groups.

These groups had their brand weakened (because branding is built on trust, which is built on consistency) because they refused to take an active stance against racism in their ranks. Many Kemetics lost faith in these groups which resulted in a number of things- from membership loss to no longer recommending these groups because racism seemed to be actively supported by the administrators.

And that’s really the caveat to a lot of this. You don’t have to actively be a dick in your community to appear to support dicks. All you have to do is remain silent, and no one knows the difference. There is a phrase that says “guilty by association” and it is apt in our communities as well. If you don’t actively speak out against things that you don’t want in your community, people will begin to assume that you are in support of this type of behaviour. And so the behaviour will persist, and the community becomes associated with the behaviour that appears to be supported- regardless of whether it actually is or not.

Perception is everything. And everything is branding. If your branding sucks, your community is going to suffer and you shouldn’t be surprised when you get lumped in with the loudmouth who is also in your community who also happens to treat people like crap. In addition, if you link to people who are jerks, you are essentially supporting those people by giving them views, and you shouldn’t be surprised when you get lumped in with them as well. Guilty by association is pretty common in all sectors of humanity, and if you don’t want your brand infected by people who are scum, you have to learn how to distance yourself from said scum.

Branding is everything. And if your branding is lacking, I recommend you take a hard look at your community and figure out what exactly is going on that is causing people to have that impression about your religion. And from there, I encourage everyone within the community to take action to create the type of community you want to exist in. Because that is the only way that anything will ever change.

How often do you think about the branding of your religious community? Have you ever worked to change people’s impressions about your religious community? If so, what was the result?

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2015 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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The Good Earth

Astral bodies are incredibly vast. They can contain worlds and universes within them. You could spend an entire lifetime inside of some bodies and never see everything within. Get lost within a body, and you may never get out again.

Astral bodies can also contain relics of previous existences within them, the same way that we sometimes stumble across old ruins in the dirt.

I’ve seen it said that human bodies are like a sort of repository or record of everything you experience. And that the records may not contain only information about yourself, but of your predecessors and ancestors, too. I find this interesting, because astral bodies can be like that as well. But instead of keeping the information for only one lifetime, the body is storing away information from multiple lifetimes that exist along a single soul line within. So the same way that my human body stores information about my own existence here on earth, as well as genetic information from my parents and their parents, etc., my astral body contains information about earth bound me, and all of the other versions of myself running around on the astral as well as predecessors and previous incarnations of myself. Because astral bodies are vast.

Stumbling across one of these relics, one of these recordings of the past is incredibly interesting. I just so happened across one in the form of dirt one evening. But this wasn’t just any dirt. This was like dirt and glitter went out for a night on the town and had a baby. It was unlike any dirt I’d ever seen here on earth.

When I asked about this dirt, I was told that I was standing on a corpse. Beneath my feet lay the remains of a previous existence, a previous life form. I’m not entirely sure what this previous life form was or what it looked like, or even how it met its end. All I know is that the corpse that this dirt represented laid the foundations for new life to grow. Like plants springing out of the ground, or crops sprouting out of Osiris’ back, this dirt has given the nutrients needed to create new life.

As it turns out, the man I was walking with was one of the many end products of this fertile soil. And as it also turns out, this man was not very fond of his soul line’s predecessor, the entity that was now embodied by this soil. He and I had been working for months now to try and figure out how to fix some of the problems he was experiencing, and the origins for most of them lie in the soil we were walking upon.

It is very difficult to heal when you carry wounds and scars from your predecessors. I have a hard time healing because I still carry scars and wounds from my parents- my mortal predecessors. And my parents carry scars that were given to them from their parents, their mortal predecessors. Based off of the many discussions I’ve had about Akhu with fellow Kemetics, it is very apparent to me that having less than ideal family lineage is par for the course anymore. So many of us don’t feel secure in giving our ancestors the time of day because they were not very good people. It is challenging to build up any sort of solace or acceptance if it hinges upon people that have hurt you- blood related or not.

This is also true, I think, if the horrible predecessor is yourself.

Ever look back at things you said or did in the past and thought “Wow I was an asshole”? Ever learn that you’ve got really bad habits that need to go away, and that those habits have hurt people really badly? Maybe you’re one of those parents in the paragraph above, and you wake up one morning and realize you wrecked your kids for life. What do you do then?

That is the situation me and my companion found ourselves in. For this dirt that he walked upon was nothing more than remnants of himself. The predecessor that he hated so much was a previous incarnation of himself. And many of the reasons the work we had been doing was not sticking was because he couldn’t get over his own past, his own previous failings.

It sucks to wake up one day and realize you’ve been a horrible person. It sucks to wake up one day and realize that you’ve hurt or possibly ruined people. It sucks to know that you’ve fed into oppressive systems or perpetuated someone else’s pain and suffering.

It sucks to wake up one day and realize you’ve been a big bag of floppy dicks. That you’ve broken the main rule of Kemeticism.

I have struggled with this over the years in many formats. There have been times when I realize that I have been horrible to other people and have hurt them and I had to figure out what to do about it. There have also been times when I have been asked to help heal someone in the Unseen who has caused me pain in the past as well. It’s hard to help someone heal when you can’t overcome the pain that they caused you. It’s hard to help someone accept their own past mistakes if you yourself can’t even accept what they have done.

Life is messy like that, and in my short time both here in the physical as well as the Unseen, I can tell you that there are more people who have screwed up and hurt others than not. If you have been a bag of dicks, I can assure you you’re not alone in it.

Something else I’ve learned during my stint here is that just because you were a bag of dicks before doesn’t mean you have to be a bag of dicks now. Just because you screwed up in the past doesn’t mean that you are condemned to be horrible forever. Sometimes your old horrible self can become useful, fertile soil to create a new you, if you know what you’re doing. I say this because who better to teach others the pitfalls of falling into certain habits than someone who has had those habits themselves?

If you look back over your past and can see how you fell into the habits, situations, and destructive patterns that you did- it’s much easier to show other people what to look out for, what things to avoid, what things to do better. Because you’ve been there and you know the ins and outs of the behaviour, it’s easier for you to draw a sort of “map” to help others get out, too.

I try to tell the man that I am walking with this. I try to reassure him that just because he was prone to bad behaviour in the past doesn’t mean that he is always doomed to repeat that behaviour. I try to tell him that he can learn from his past and better himself, that he needn’t be chained to who he was. Every moment is Zep Tepi. Every moment is a time to start over and recommit yourself anew to whatever path you choose. This fertile soil that we walk upon could very well serve as the foundations for him to become someone better than he once was.

And the truth is, we are all this way. We are all our own cache of fertile soil that we can grow from. We are all able to become more than what we were, whenever we so choose to plant the seeds of change within ourselves. Even if you’ve screwed up or done things you regret, you can always choose to do better. Never give up on yourself. Investing in yourself is the best investment that you can ever make, and it is an investment that we should all be making regularly.

Do not deny yourself your new beginning.

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KRT: Priesthood Here & Now

A long long long time ago I wrote a post detailing how the priesthood existed in antiquity. At the end of that post, I had asked Kemetics to weigh in on what it meant to be a priest now. Originally, I was going to write a response to my own question, once I sorted out what being a priest entails now that we have no state structure to support us.

I never wrote a response.

As it turns out, figuring out what being a priest should be is much harder than what it appears at first glance. And despite all of the reading and poking and musing that I’ve done regarding our religion in the past few years, I am still not very solid on what I think our priests should be, or what qualifications our modern priests should have. The closest I’ve managed to get to writing about priests is this post where I talk about how I don’t feel priesthood is the most pressing concern in our community and this post where I outline that we need more roles in our community beyond laity and priests. While both posts are helpful, neither really answer the question of where I personally see our priesthood fitting into the modern Kemetic community.

But for the sake of KRT, I shall now try to take a stab at what I feel modern priesthood should entail.

 Priesthood: What it Isn’t

It’s easier for me to start off by figuring out what I don’t think should necessarily be encompassed by Kemetic priests. I’ve had the fortune or misfortune of sitting in on many discussions regarding priesthood, and it seems that most people want priests to do a little bit of everything. They want priests to be grief counselors and wedding facilitators. They want priests who engage the community, produce accurate resources on the religion or their patron deity. They want priests that basically do all of the hard work without paying them or compensating them for their time and efforts.

I personally think this is a horrible idea, and I have a couple of reasons for it:

  • One: we’re not other religions. We’re not Wicca where everyone is a priest. We’re not Christians with priests that stand in front of clergies and give mass. We’re not these other religions, and I don’t think that we necessarily need to emulate these religions simply because they are what is familiar to us.
  • Two: resources. I know people are tired of me wailing about resources, but it is what makes things run. People don’t have the time to do all of this stuff, and the only way they would have the time is if we were paying them. Which I’m pretty sure our community doesn’t have the funding to do.
  • Three: second cousin to point two would be education. How do we educate our priests in all of these things? There is no Kemetic college you can go to. And most people don’t have the ability to become an Egyptologist (not that that really deals with the religion, either). Taking a general theology class might be useful, but it still wouldn’t arm the priest with all of the tools needed for what everyone seems to want them to be able to do. And that still doesn’t address the cost in both money and time to learn how to do these things effectively. Both of which our community is lacking in.
  • Four: It sets up a damaging expectation about our community. It will bring back the ‘priesthood-laity’ dichotomy that I think we desperately need to move away from. It will create a structure where you are either a super cool priest that does everything, or you are a lame layperson who does nothing. It doesn’t allow for diversity in our community or diversity amongst our community roles.

From my perspective, priesthood is not really about helping the community. I do think there should be some overlap with the community, but at the end of the day, that’s not what being a priest is really about. I don’t think priests need to be grief counselors. I don’t think priests need to be community facilitators. I don’t think priests need to be holding retreats or opening the doors of their shrine to other Kemetics to enjoy. I don’t think that priests should necessarily be any of these things (though obviously, they can be these things if they so choose to). I feel that too many times the members of our community want to place all of these expectations and responsibilities on priests for personal reasons. And I feel that these personal desires shouldn’t be conflated with what the actual role is meant to entail, or what the community actually needs from it’s priesthood.

Priesthood: What it Could Be

So that leads me into what I think priests should be, or more accurately, what they could be. I personally don’t feel comfortable putting up too many requirements for priests because I am not one, and will never be one. However, I will give some suggestions on what I think would be the most logical and beneficial for the community in a long term sense.

A lot of what colors my ideas about what priests could or should be comes from antiquity, to be honest. In antiquity, the priesthood kept the house of the god in order. They kept the gods clothed and fed, and made sure that the temple precinct was maintained. To an extent, I think that modern priesthood should mirror this. Priests take care of the god’s quarters.

This means you have an established house for the god that you venerate. You perform daily rituals that involve food offerings, libations, and words of power. I know that a sort of standard for priests has been that they perform state rituals, but I personally don’t think that is mandatory. What I do think is mandatory is that your daily rituals are more involved than simply placing down and offering plate and wandering off. I also think that priests should be doing more involved rituals on a regular basis, and honoring days that are special to the deity that they are serving.

I add these extra caveats in because I want to differentiate between someone who is a ritualist (aka: does a lot of rituals, or has a very rituals driven practice) and someone who is acting in the capacity of a priest. In my experience, there is a difference between quick daily rites, and rituals that are more involved and are aimed towards keeping the god’s place and body clean and renewed every day.

Beyond the basic rituals of feeding and caring for the gods, I believe that a priest needs to ensure that the house the god resides in is well maintained. This means making sure that the shrine doesn’t collect 2 inches of dust before you clean it. This also means making sure that the shrine upkeep is as important as the deity upkeep because you’re there to facilitate a living space for the gods, and that living space should be kept tidy.

In addition to everything above, I don’t think it’s mandatory to have an Open icon. Once upon a time, I thought that maybe it would be, but I personally feel that maintaining the shrine and the god inside of the shrine is more important than whether the icon itself has gone through a specific ritual. This is probably also due to the fact that I believe that the gods can cause an icon to become Open, regardless of what rituals you may or may not have performed on the icon.

You’ll notice that my list of “requirements” is pretty short, and that is on purpose. We don’t need priests to do everything because we have non-priests who can do those things as well. I think the biggest role for the priest is maintaining the house of the god, and the god that resides inside of that house. Anything more than that is at their own choosing. It is also this focus on rituals and shrine work that lead me to believe that I will likely never become a priest, because I don’t do a whole lot of either. I’m fairly certain that my views on priesthood are too narrow for some people’s preferences (“priests should do more!” they’ll say) and too loose for others (“they need to do state rites and have an Open icon!”), but that is my current line of thought regarding priesthood in the modern era. I guess we’ll see if my views shift in different ways over the course of the next few years as I continue to poke at this topic.

To read other responses to this topic, check out the KRT Master List

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Kemetic Round Table, Kemeticism

 

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Take Two & Call Me in the Morning

Alternative title: Healing Over There Ain’t Like Healing Over Here.

If you would have asked me 5 years ago whether I felt working healing people would be in my future, I would have laughed in your face and told you no. Even now, I have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that a large part of what I do Over There technically falls under the category of “healing”. Much like the medical field here in the Seen, there are many different types of healing that I’ve come across during my travels. And much like over here, there are many people who specialize in a certain type of healing. The notion that there is someone who can cure everything or do it all seems to be pretty scarce in the places I’ve been, and if you live in the bad parts of town like I do- and you’re smart- you’ll have a Rolodex filled with different healers who have different specializations. That way, when you end up with random health problems, you’ll have plenty of people to pick from to get yourself patched up.

And that’s probably the hardest part about healthcare Over There- there are just so many damned ways to get hurt that don’t exist over here. Some things are very literal like they are here-you take in a virus that needs to be worked out of your system or maybe you break a limb that needs to be reset and not used until it heals up. But generally speaking, the stuff that goes wrong there is not the type of thing you run into here.

Limbs don’t break very often there, unless you’re in a plane with really rigid physics. Nope. Instead you get limbs that get eroded off by poison laced weaponry. Or you find that someone ate two of your fingers off, and now you have to either learn how to re-grow those fingers, or find someone who can recreate those fingers and stitch them back onto you.

Other times you’ll get things like energetic infections- where your energy lines (possibly the equivalent to blood vessels or nerves in the human body) start feeling like fire every time you’re awake. Or sometimes you’ll get things shoved into you (literal things, yes) that end up emitting an illness from the inside- and in those cases you have to fish the item out (this is not as easy as it sounds), and then combat the infection that is now in your system.

There are also illnesses that can effect bond lines or threads- and there are people who perform surgeries and other similar methods to help clean those up or remove bonds and threads that are destroying a person’s health. And because bond lines are super fun and so many things are connected, what infects you could very well infect your entire house because it travels down the bond line. Kinda like when one kid comes in with a cold, and infects everyone in their class. And then those kids go home and infect their parents, who then go to work and infect their coworkers. If you’re not careful, it’s really easy for one well placed illness or injury to take out an entire household in the span of a few hours. Which is why the Rolodex is so important.

I also think it becomes pretty obvious pretty quickly why there are specializations. It’s difficult to learn and master all of these various areas of focus, and even seasoned healers come across new stuff that they have to formulate solutions to. However, no matter what focus you specialize in, there are a few lessons that seem to be applicable to all healers that are working Over There. Here are some lessons that I’ve picked up over the few years that I have been poking around people’s insides:

Lesson One: Leading Horses to Water Doesn’t Always Work

The first lesson to learn about healing Over There is that it is very difficult to heal someone who doesn’t want to be healed. This is less of an issue if you happen to be a healer that can tell someone to take some medication and call it day. However, most healers that I’ve met require their patient to be compliant and willing in order for healing to be successful- and you’d be surprised how hard it is to find patients that are both willing and compliant.

This is probably a big deal for me due to the type of work that I perform. Generally speaking, the work I do would be the equivalent to some forms of shadow work performed over here. And like many people here, many of the entities that I’ve worked on have wanted to be healed in a sort of abstract, distant kind of way. But for whatever reason they weren’t ready or prepared to do all of the work that comes with the process of healing. There have been many occasions where we will begin the healing process, only to have the entity revert or regress a short time later. Old habits die hard, and the death of those habits is usually part and parcel of the healing process. An inability to face that usually results in backtracking once a healing session is finished, and I have witnessed more than my fair share of backtracking in the time that I’ve been working Over There. This, of course, can be frustrating when a patient comes back a few weeks later, and you see all of the hard work you put into them completely undone like it was nothing. Which brings me to lesson two…

Lesson Two: Distance is Crucial

The second lesson I learned about healing is that you must be distant in order to be effective. This isn’t to be confused with being calloused- as that usually doesn’t get you anywhere either. What I mean is that you must always be in control of your emotions, and you must remain a bit at arms length from whoever you are working on. To draw on an example that is probably closer to home- imagine if you called the ambulance because you just got run through with something. If the ambulance showed up at your house, and all of the EMTs came out and started panicking and crying, you’d end up dieing on your living room floor. Or if the EMTs got you to the hospital, but your surgeon saw you and broke down in the operating room because they were devastated over your condition, you’d be likely to die yet again.

Healing over there is no different. You will traipse through people’s awful memories and have to stay compassionate but composed as they break down in your lap. You will have hurt people lash out at you and call you all sorts of names, and you have to not let it effect your mood. You have to learn how to keep your head above their water while keeping them from drowning- all while they scream profanity at you.

And when your patient comes back a few weeks later with all of your work undone, you have to be able to not explode in their face. To do so would likely cause more harm than good, and it would end up undoing even more of your work.

Lesson Three: It’s Not About You

I personally think this is the most important lesson to learn hands down, and it is something that I have experienced both over here and Over There, and it’s something that I’ve seen many people fail at many many times.

When you are healing someone, it is not about you. It is about them and what they need in order to be healed.

To bring up the person showing up a few weeks later, you may want to yell at them. You may want to teach them a thing and ream them about how they are screwing everything up. But much like parents who yell at their children at the worst possible time, doing what feels gratifying in the short term will often result in backtracking in the long term. Part and parcel to being distant from whoever you are healing, you must learn that you are not the focus of this situation.

This can extend beyond wanting to yell at someone, too. Putting your patient’s needs first means that when their body truly says “I am done”, you oblige them. Putting your patient’s needs first means that your expectations and desires come after whatever is truly needed for healing to take place. I’ve experienced this in a number of ways throughout the years. I had mentioned my friend “Waffles” in a previous post where he ultimately decided that he no longer wished to continue forward, and opted to essentially be euthanized. It was me that had to handle that.

In another situation I was healing someone who we expected to stick around and stay with my household after we were done. Except that once the healing took hold, he faded off and disappeared to who knows where. There have been other times where relationships have to be purely platonic while healing is occurring- because that’s what is needed, even though it wasn’t what either of us really wanted.

In every situation where healing is occurring, you have to remember to keep your needs second to the needs of your patient. If you can’t do that, then you are not the right healer that is required for the job. Sometimes there are certain cases that you’re not able to take on or shouldn’t take on, and sometimes you need a healer that is further removed from whatever is going on to get the job done right.

Lesson Four: Know When You’re Out of Your League

Healing is one of those things where you never really know what to expect when a patient walks through your door. There are times when people come in, and it’s an easy case where you can get it done quickly and send them on their way. Then there are other times when someone walks in, and you don’t even know where to begin. Learning how to figure out when to keep trying to heal a difficult case, and when to pass that case onto someone else with a different skill set can be the difference between someone who is successfully healed, and someone who ends up worse for wear.

This easily ties back into lesson three and remembering that it’s not about you. Letting your ego, feelings or desires get in the way of a healing session that you’re not really able to handle can prove disastrous not only to the patient, but yourself as well. I know that I want to be able to fix everyone that comes my way, but there are times when I know I’m in over my head and I know that I’m not the best person for the job. Being able to come to terms with that, and being able to pass the patient over to someone who has better tools to fix them is important. Because, again, it’s not about you- its about what the patient needs in order to heal.

There are obviously many other caveats, lessons, and things I could write about healing Over There, and this list only barely scratches the surface. However, hopefully it gives at least some sort of basic primer for anyone who has ever considered taking up healing in the Unseen, or will give some tips for anyone who has accidentally found themselves charged with the task of healing someone else Over There.

 

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Healing and Destruction: Two Sides of the Same Coin

When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals, and I thought it would be a nice idea to help heal and save the animals that I loved. That is until I realized that in order to be a vet, you must be willing and able to also kill animals when treatment was not available or working. And with the mention of that, I decided the profession was not for me. Life’s funny like that, because despite my best efforts to move away from death and destruction, my life Over There landed me neck deep in both. Over the years I have made a lot of vague passing comments about the nature of my life Over There, but I’ve never really gone into any amount of depth or detail regarding the work I do. As with most everything I do, this has been done on purpose, as I’ve always felt that talking about it would result in one of two things: people looking at me like I’ve lost my marbles while they whisper “special snowflake” to their closest friends, or people looking at me with horror while they call me a monster. Both options lead to suck so I’ve never bothered.

However, recent discussions about the nature of ma’at and the nature of the gods has led me to decide to finally open up about some of what I do Over There. I guess we can consider it getting an early start to the work Set has laid out for me this year.

Usually when I sum up my work Over There, I de-fang and sterilize everything down to “I heal and destroy”. It sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but it’s honestly anything but. I’ve noticed over the years that many people seem to have troubles understanding how these two things can live so closely together, as seen by goddesses such as Sekhmet. However, let me assure you that the two are opposite sides of the same coin, as with the veterinarian mentioned above. In order to be able to heal, you must also be adept at being able to kill, and one can easily lead into the other.

I never expected to end up in this role, and taking up this sort of “work” happened very organically- at least on my end. I still can’t tell if Set and Osiris came to me because they foresaw what I was capable of doing, or if this is all just icing on top of their already made cake. At first I tried to escape the role that lay before me. However, the more I ran, the faster it caught up with me, and eventually I ended up embracing what was laying at my feet. Anything else resulted in more discomfort. Sometimes it’s easier to find solace in what you are than to continually deny what is written in front of your face.

Much like with my gods where Set came first and Osiris followed, my work started with destruction and I didn’t learn some of the finer points of healing until much later. Destruction came very easily to me from a very early point in my astral work. This is mainly due to my ability to access the deeper points of people Over There. I don’t even have to really try, and I can fall into some of the deepest darkest parts of a person or a plane (because planes can have embodiments and cores, just as humanesque entities do), places where it’s very easy to do damage. Waking up neck deep in astral fuckery meant that I had to kill sometimes in order to survive. Sometimes I needed to destroy a place, person, or item in order to get away and restore some semblance of balance or totality to my existence. Destruction was very necessary when I first started out. I had to clear out the wreckage of my house in order to actually address the foundations below.

The need to heal people was pretty quick to follow, though. Turns out that when you’re popping up in these horrible places to collect parts of yourself, you often find other people who are just as screwed up as you are. I found myself wanting to help these people, and wanting to help heal them as best as I could. I also think that I secretly hoped that I would be able to avoid killing things because healing them was the solution to everything. I didn’t realize at the time that this isn’t really the case- healing is not always a solution, nor is it always the best solution.

Shortly after, Osiris began to teach me how to use the river to heal myself and others as well. We’d branch from using my particular river to using vats of water in general. I learned various methods of picking nasty bits out of people’s energy lines, and I began to work on learning how to heal cores and core spirits. I felt as though I might have found a solution to everything- I would heal whatever I came across instead of killing it.

The problem is, healing doesn’t really work that way.

Death and destruction are part of a healer’s arsenal. When someone from Over There opens up their proverbial medical bag, death and destruction are one of the first things to be pulled out. The first method that Osiris showed me, after all, involved drowning in order to facilitate the ability to heal. It doesn’t get much more morbid than that.

And even if you’re not using death or destruction to heal, sometimes killing is still an unavoidable side effect. Sometimes you work your ass off trying to heal someone, and the healing still does not stick. The healing doesn’t work because the person isn’t ready, or in some cases, the person doesn’t even want to be healed anymore. I had a man that I ended up calling Waffles because he kept waffling in his healing so much. Some weeks he wanted to live and wanted to stay with me forever. And then other weeks he’d withdraw entirely, and wish for death.

Eventually, the death won out. Part of being the healer is being able to put someone out of their misery if you need to (or if they want it). Another part of being a healer is being able to put someone down if they are becoming a serious danger to you or others. Sometimes death is the best way to facilitate the healing. And of course, we can’t forget the other popular end result- which is when the healing works out so well that the person passes on by their own choice, leaving you with a surprisingly empty room one morning. All of these results are not only possible, but common when it comes to healing Over There.

To bring this into a more mundane aspect, you can even see destruction in the healing we perform here on Earth. Ever taken antibiotics? That involves killing bacteria in your system in order to get better. Destruction facilitates the restoration of balance within your system. Destruction can sometimes lead to ma’at – which is exactly why we have less than peaceful deities in our pantheon. Sometimes peace and passivity are not the answer.

And perhaps that is why I have ended up with the selection of gods that I have. Set’s destruction and Osiris’ passivity give me the best of both worlds, and in many ways both of their tasks fall into the same category: healing, or the restoration of balance for a person, plane, or realm. Sometimes killing and death are required in order to restore that balance. Sometimes good old fashioned nurturing and healing are required to restore the balance. Sometimes you need both in equal measure.

I was once hopeful that I could use all of what I have learned regarding healing to wipe away all of the red on my hands from everything I have destroyed or killed. But since then I have learned that healing doesn’t wipe the red away. It simply adds to the richness of the color. Life without death does not exist, nor does healing exist without destruction, as both are inseparably linked.

 

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